As we continually see more and more consumer-grade internet devices, like appliances, baby monitors, thermostats, etc., we need a more robust way to manage these devices in a secure way. There are approximately 9 billion of these devices built every year. These devices each have a tiny chip or microcontroller (MCU) that hosts the compute, the storage and the memory, as well as the operating system.
I’m excited to tell you about a newer offering called Microsoft Azure Sphere. As these consumer-grade devices grow exponentially, the problem is that some of these devices are not built in a secure way, making them easily susceptible to hacking. There have been plenty of news stories about devices that have been hacked and then used for malicious purposes.
Microsoft is not alone in recognizing this issue. But they jumped on this in 2015 and they began to develop a way that they believed was a good approach to secure these devices and created Microsoft Azure Sphere. This is a solution for creating highly secure internet connected microcontroller devices with
3 main components:
1. Azure Sphere Certified MCUs – They’ve got manufacturers that architect a solution that combines real time and application processors built onto this MCU, using built in Microsoft security technology and connectivity capabilities.
They used the experience, processes and lessons learned from looking at the X-Box consoles that have been built over the past 15 years and put that into the design of these chips. So, third party companies can build these chips by using these processes and be certified.
2. Azure Sphere Operating System – Once an MCU is certified, you can install this operating system which is intended to be super secure and agile to serve those MCU purposes, including layers of security from Windows, Linux and specific security monitoring software all built into that operating system.
3. Azure Sphere Security Service – This allows you to protect each device, but also allows secure communication from device to device or device to the cloud.
Similar to what we talk about with IoT and IoT Hub, but there is a certified way of doing it to ensure you’re using the architecture that will remain secure and support by Microsoft for years to come. And this will apply to 10s of 1000s of companies that are going to build devices for all the areas I’ve mentioned and more, giving them that secure platform to build them.
Azure Sphere was just announced earlier this year and there’s a long way to go. But we’ll soon start to see things like software and hardware development kits (which you can pre-order now from Microsoft) and really get a chance to understand how it works and how it’s going to offer better solutions in the coming years for these connected devices.
It’s a cool technology and however they brand it, whether it’s Azure Sphere MCU Certified or something else, it will give us the assurance that we’ll be getting a quality product without the danger of getting exposed.